The Journeyman: Player Spotlight on Jeff Coetzee

Jeff Coetzee is slowly becoming one of the biggest sporting icons in the history of South Africa. The black right-handed professional tennis player from the town of Okiep in the northern cape of South Africa began playing tennis when he was nine years old. He is currently ranked No. 18 in the world in doubles and is in fourth place with his partner Wesley Moodie in the race for the eight-team year-end doubles championships in Shanghai. He is the anchor along with Moodie for the South African Davis Cup team.

The 31-year-old was first introduced to tennis by his brother Dennis. His idols growing up were the tennis players Boris Becker and Kevin Curren. He was a rather proficient soccer player, but quit at the age of twelve to concentrate on tennis. When he was eleven he moved to Johannesburg and stayed with a family, to improve his game. He realized when he was training in Joburg that he had the potential to be a travelling touring pro. He tried the singles tour and got to No. 184 in December of ’99. He then started to concentrate solely on doubles after sustaining some injuries.

“Apartheid was tough on me, but I only got the last bit of it,” says Jeff. He went on to say, “I could not enter into some tournaments because of my color and had a tough time in the beginning. But my mom always said, just let my racket do the talking.”

One other example of racism was when his manager Bruce Davidson’s car was spray painted with the slogan “kaffir lover.” Mr. Davidson would then sneak him into his apartment when he was visiting.

His best moments playing tennis are when he plays Davis Cup and his mixed doubles match against Steffi Graf and John McEnroe at Wimbledon a few years back. His worst moment came when he was playing Davis Cup and twisted his ankle against Slovakia. They were down two matches to none, and he continued to play but lost the match. A more traumatic experience happened when he was in a car accident with his girlfriend Mauricia Leukes, which put him on the injured reserve list for awhile.

To jumpstart his career he obtained financing from a boxing promoter named Rodney Berman. He resides in London now and is coached by former tour player Piet Norval. He visits and works with his coach in Capetown at the Spier Tennis Academy.He sometimes travels with Norval, and also his girlfriend will come along to a few tourneys during the year.

Some of his closest friends are former tour player Robbie Koenig and his Davis Cup teammates. His favorite tournament is the Australian Open, and his favorite hotel on tour is the Monte Carlo Bay and Casino Hotel. His goal is to win a gold medal at the Olympics in doubles, and to achieve the No. 1 ranking as well. He runs a charity with his doctor in South Africa to help kids and Jeff and his brother also run a tournament every September which main focus is to fight violence and crime, sponsored by Dunlop rackets and Oakley sunwear.